Monday, December 7, 2015

Bingham NM - Blanchard Mine Trip

A couple months ago we joined the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club. I am not a club fan and I really dislike "meetings" but this group has some nice presentations and they have a once a month field trip to hunt/collect rocks and minerals. We took a trip to the Blanchard Mine where one of the members has a claim specifically to remove minerals. He has had the claim since 1987 and has pulled a lot of nice specimens out of it. Once a year he leads a trip and lets club members collect. We hear it is the most popular trip of the year. This is probably for a couple reasons - nice specimens AND you can get four wheel drive vehicles right up to the mine (rocks are heavy) AND it is only 1 1/2 hours from Albuquerque. All plusses.

We left the house at an ok hour (not too early) so we could get there by 9:30. When we arrived there were already 15 or so cars lined up. By 9:30 36 cars were there all signed in and we headed further up the two track dirt where we hopped into 4 wheel drive vehicles. Up we went. Around 20 people were allowed into the mine for about 1 1/2 hours. We were in the first batch. Mines are a lot more interesting than I originally thought they would be. This was our second mine (Galena King was the first)). The outside of mines usually have mounds of interesting rocks and minerals. Inside there are usually lots of minerals all over the ground and big chunks or streaks of stuff in the ceiling and walls. We were told not to hammer anything out over shoulder height. It was overwhelming to pick through what was on the ground...we really don't know what we are looking at at this point.

Jeff went to the end of the shaft (not far) and I plopped down just inside the mine not knowing where to look or what to do. I sat in a pocket and just started to look at things. I am glad I stayed near the made it easier to move my couple big "yard rocks" out. Things are heavy. Then I started to chip away at some streaks and gather up smaller pieces.


The cold temperature mellowed into a nice sunny windless afternoon when we exited the mine. We spent a couple more hours banging on rocks outside the mine and digging through piles in search of more treasures and waiting for a ride down. On the ride out someone pointed out a really long rock wall from ancient times. We would not have seen it.

We did a slight detour on the way home to check out the Apache Wetland area but it was the Crane Festival and I was grumpy and didn't want to deal with all the photographers and people heading out to wait for sunset when the whooping cranes fly in. I want to see it, but next year we may go ahead of the festival when no one is there. We drove home and admired our treasures!

Minerals found in this mine include: angle site, barite, bronchantite (green), cerussite, fluorite (lots), galena (gray cubes and heavy), gypsum, linarite (royal blue that we didn't find...maybe a couple dots of it), calcite and a bunch of other stuff. Originally it was mined to process galena ore then barite and fluorite. It was not a successful mine. It is in the Oscura Mountains on the eastern margin of the Rio Grande rift in fault block mountains. It is really neat to get to visit spots like this that we would not be able to go to on our own. It is way out in the middle of nowhere with nothing near it!

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